My first encounter with a Public Service Vehicle, commonly known as ‘matatu’, was probably a spectacle to behold. I was an odd child, and had even odder tendencies. Like for instance, I insisted on the right shoelace being tied first. So, I bawled my eyes out, begging my mother to forgive me instead of feeding me to the metallic harbinger of doom should not be held on my account.
I still hold my beliefs against it, but I have decided that to be one with society and the dynamic force that is mankind, I should embrace it, note; should. However, there are still aspects about public transport that doesn’t tickle me in the right way; is there a right way to tickle, anyway?
Louts and looting; Am I the only one who instinctively clutches my purse when I get on one? There might not be any imminent danger, in fact, the bus could be full to capacity with women from those merry-go-round chamas, complaining about Doris’ ever sugarless tea ;why did they drink it in the first place?, you would still be hanging on to the metal railing with your bag, scanning the vehicle repeatedly, hoping that the good Lord grants you journey mercies to reach your destination safely, promising that you will be giving thanks to Him through prayers more often.
Let’s not even speak about the phone snatchers. Say you want fresh air or lack, thereof, your phone vibrates with a new message, it could be that promotion you’ve been anticipating, probably Kylie Jenner had a second baby that no one knew about, or that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing is going on sale, it could be a matter of life and death. Out of nowhere ,I kid you not, you won’t see them coming your precious baby is whisked off by a man-boy who manages to smirk back at you as he dodges buses breaking traffic rules as he catapults himself to safety, it’s a skill I wish to master myself without falling face first. My country people who do not seem to care look on that’s when you realize you are the only visitor in Jerusalem.
You can only look on helplessly, so you do what any sane adult would, close the window and act as if nothing happened, phone? Phone who? Or you could start screaming murder and go on a rampage. The results would be the same, you lost. Streets 1: you 0 the referee goes to the VAR then he waves play on, the traffic jam opens up you move on as if nothing happened.
Synthetic Susan; We have all probably been exposed to her. She insists on sitting on the window seat, has a pseudo-screechy voice and looks at you disdainfully. ‘Is that a granny sweater?’ you translate from her looks. Right before she rolls her eyes and turns towards the heavily tinted window she would not let you have. You sigh sadly before clutching your bag against your chest, this time for comfort. Her talons are luminous and she would eat you for breakfast if you can’t spell acrylic. Let’s not even talk about her voluminous hairdo that would cut off your breathing if she’s too close and her faux headphones that has Drake shouting about hotline bling bling.
Her perfume is choking you to a point of suffocation, you could swear it’s illegal in ten states for being toxic. You gather up enough courage from all your ancestors and ask her to crack open the window. She’s chewing nosily as she says ‘it finna ruin ma haaaarrrr’, before flipping said hair in your face, successfully blinding you. You start praying, this is the end. Who knew you’d die from slay queen pollution?
Where art thou?; I will not lie to the public and say I always know where I am when I get off a matatu. There’s always a minute or two of disorientation after you get off, or even, are pushed off a matatu with their board anywhere but you only alight at the stage ‘ Kupanda ni popote, kushuka ni stage’ modus operandi. This is the moment you reanalyze everything in your life. Let me back track a bit. By some miracle you actually spot your destination up ahead, which was a difficult task in itself as you navigate around your seatmate’s hair, and squint through the tinted window. You wave your hands to get the conductor’s attention as he pretends he can’t see you more so when he has your change or is it balance sticking to their code of conduct to pay is a must but your balance refund is due to you only if you remember ‘Kulipa ni lazima, change ni ukikumbuka’.
For some odd reason the matatu is dark, overloaded with both passengers and luggage coupled with loud music yet you are not supposed to say anything about everything.If you ask the tout to reduce the volume you will be told how stone age you are, if you ask him to change the playlist to something decent to all lets say Gospel music ‘Nyimbo za Injili’ he will fork at you Yesu hajatoa album, Jesus hasn’t released an album yet. In general, it ticks all the boxes for what you assume Satan’s get together party at hell would look like.
You decide to go to the door anyway, and proceed to wobble through the multitude of people. The journey is always long; someone has already taken your seat the moment you made a gesture to stand, so there won’t be any going back. You elbowed mama mboga on your way out so you can kiss that extra nyanya goodbye. Sad and uncomfortable the tout is still holding onto you change. You make it to the door, hopefully unscathed and jump out into the confusing light the moment the driver brakes. Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere trying to trade beans for bread. After adjusting to the light of day, you realize you no longer have your bag and the few coins the tout handed you are in fact two buttons and a giant shilling with pencil marks for a mustache on the former president’s face.
Ultimatum; At this point, you either count your losses and move on, or you oath to walk instead to wherever you need to be. But you will find yourself struggling on that cold evening to get on some rusty bus, or opting for a gym membership instead of walking because science made it possible to run on a treadmill instead of running to work, who are you to go against it? The point is that commuting is a vice instilled in us, we love to hate it, and it’s who we are. A vicious cycle we all enjoy being a part of. So I ask you, would you rather board a Matatu or board a Matatu?